SAIT’s School of Manufacturing and Automation collaborated with leaders of the local automation and manufacturing industries in Heritage Hall on Oct. 10 as part of the seventh annual Manufacturing Day.
Manufacturing Day is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire future generations of manufacturers, and is produced by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute.
Jim Szautner, dean of the School of Manufacturing and Automation, said that the event is a great opportunity to talk about innovations in manufacturing while providing a networking opportunity for employers who are looking to build their workforce.
“SAIT students are a lot more hands on, and they get all the training [at SAIT] that employers are looking for,” said Szautner.
“Manufacturing Day is an opportunity to talk about the future of automation, big data analytics, and more customized products for customers.”
Greg James, national didactic manager at Festo, said that when it comes to hiring new talent, technology is changing rapidly and most of the knowledge about the industry comes from working in the field.
“We are looking for people with an open mind and a diverse set of skills. We want to fill them with knowledge. We need people who really want to learn and are able to adapt quickly,” said James.
“This collaboration between the industry and academia is something that I haven’t seen before. We need to support this communication and develop trusting relationships in the industry.”
Organized by Olga Malikova, academic chair of Mechanical Engineering Technology, the event focused on education, innovation, communication, industry development, and leading technologies.
It provided information for business owners about the different ways they can integrate automation into a production system.
“In order to integrate automation into production, we have to understand where the gaps are in the organization and see the direction we want it to go. Then we can develop pilot projects to really enable this digitalization process,” said Graham Bartlett, senior technical sales consultant at Siemens Industry Software Ltd. in Calgary.
Despite the notion that a “technological revolution” could result in millions of people losing their jobs, Bartlett said that there will be other jobs that haven’t been created yet that will require us to learn, grow and adapt in a technological field.
“Traditional blue collar jobs may be decreasing, but we are actually growing a new workforce in the automation industry,” explained Bartlett.
Scott Armstrong, automation team leader at GN Corporations and a recent SAIT graduate, said that robots increase our production and help to increase our ability to compete with countries like China.
“I would never think that I could be a part of something so revolutionary. Change is coming fast. We need to be able to adapt, have an open mind, and think [about] where the industry is going to go in the future,” said Armstrong.
“Robots and automation are not only here to stay, but they are going to make up a huge part of the future as we know it.”
SAIT students demonstrated their ability to keep up with the ever-changing field of manufacturing and automation at Skills Canada, where, as part of Team Alberta, they won a gold medal in mechatronics.
Laine Van Hardeveld, Team Canada prospect for WorldSkills competition, which will be taking place in Kazan, Russia in 2019, is working on a simulated manufacturing facility of the future.
“What attracted me to WorldSkills is being able to differentiate myself from everyone else,” said Van Hardeveld.
“That has led to us learning above and beyond what we could learn in class.”